Gallery goes behind the lines

Saturday, February 8 saw the launch of the Cowra Regional Art Gallery's 2020 program and their latest exhibition, the 2019 iteration of Behind the Lines.

Behind the Lines gives the local community and visitors to the district an all access pass to enjoy the bumper crop of the best political cartoons from the year that was.

Opening the exhibition was the Museum of Australian Democracy's (MOAD) Exhibitions Coordinator, Greg Parish, who said it was pleasure to have the exhibition in a regional area.

"It's really important for us to partner and collaborate with regional venues to provide opportunities to enrich the cultural experience of those living in regional areas," he said.

"We want to get some of the material in our collection out to the regions for people to celebrate and enjoy.

"We don't want people to think that just because they're not located in a major city that they are going to miss out, that's the real payoff to having the show somewhere like the Cowra Regional Art Gallery," he said.

Mr Parish said the exhibition was part of raising the profile of MOAD among the public.

"One of the things we are trying to do through Behind the Lines is to make people more aware of what the Museum of Australian Democracy is and the fact that was actually have one," he said.

"The serious undertones to the show is embedded in one of our core values at the Museum, trying to develop a greater appreciation for freedom of expression, freedom of speech, free media and cartoons have that power to captivate people and make them think these are really important cornerstones of our democracy.

"We find the cartoons in the Behind the Lines show are a really good vehicle for that, because although the cartoons are funny in themselves and the artists are very clever, there are some serious undertones that people can take away and think 'how good is it that I live in a country where we can do this, where we can scrutinize the performance of our politicians and leaders and do it through a form of visual satire'," he said.

In speaking to those gathered for the launch Mr Parish said the exhibition was a "tour de force" of Australian federal and international politics.

He said many of the cartoons in the exhibition drew from musical undertones which had helped make the decision for the overarching rock theme.

"There is a cartoon which is one of my favorites by David Rowe which comes to mind "Donald Trumpsteen" this cartoon is drawn in context about Trump's comments on the ethnicity of certain elected representatives," he said.

"Rowe draws on Bruce Springsteen's album cover for "Born in the USA" in his rendition he's substituted an overweight Trump and Springsteen's red cap becomes the KKK hood and it's quite a scathing depiction of the US president.

"But it's cartoons like this that help steer our thinking in an overarching theme to organise the exhibition into," he said.

Mr Parish said it wasn't only humour on display within the exhibition.

"One of the things cartoons often do is they are funny, humorous and have a great punchline, very occasionally though a cartoon will have tremendous power and it won't be funny at all," he said.

"There is a work by Canberra based cartoonist Pat Campbell and the work is called 'New Zealand Fern' and it's a work that was drawn in response to the Christchurch massacre, it's a tremendous work.

"When you look at it, it's the New Zealand fern but all the fronds have been substituted for someone posing in the Muslim pray position and there is one frond for every victim of the massacre.

"It's my favorite work because it demonstrates the power of a cartoon or illustration to transcend beyond something funny and which makes us laugh, but to some up a sentiment to a terrible event.

"So in some instances cartoons can be part of the antidote when words can't and I think in that instance Pat's is," he said.